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The sound of the tape cuts through the air as I seal the last of the boxes in the tiny studio apartment I’ve leased for the past six years. My iPod is playing my favorite contemporary soul singers, keeping me focused on the task at hand. My boyfriend, Dante will be by in the morning to take the boxes to the two-bedroom condo my best friend, Amber Lynn, is sharing with me. I’ll drive over to the place with my laptop and photography equipment. A duffel bag and air mattress is in the trunk of my silver Jetta. The major pieces of furniture and appliances are already at the condo, so there are fewer things to transport.
“Where the hell is Amber Lynn?” I demanded. “Blondie should’ve been here by now.”
My smart phone went off, blasting a popular song by the chick that went stir-crazy a few years ago. I looked at the screen and saw it’s Amber Lynn.
“Dante and I are downstairs with the Chinese food,” Amber Lynn said, her Southern twang evident.
“It’s about time. I’ll buzz you two up.”
I arranged the giant cushions into a triangle and placed the plastic ware in the middle of the floor. I opened the door and there they were my fiancé and best friend bearing gifts of Chinese food and cheap beer.
“Let’s get this party started,” Amber Lynn declared, holding up a case of beer.
“Missed me, babe?” Dante asked me, holding several bags of food.
I took the food from Dante and kissed him, slipping him some tongue. We have been dating for three years before he proposed to me last Thanksgiving. His mocha-colored skin, green eyes, muscular body and plantation hair attracted me the day I covered a burglary in his Lincoln Park neighborhood for the newspaper. His barber shop was vandalized right before opening day. Dante played soccer on the minor league as a midfielder and almost made it before he permanently destroyed his left knee. He owns several small businesses, practices law and is about to go public with a start-up soon. The first time I fucked him, I could barely walk for several days.
“EW, get a room,” Amber Lynn whined.
Dante and I stopped making out long enough to have dinner and drank the beer straight out of the bottle. “Amber, remember when I first moved into this place?” I asked.
“Yup,” she answered, with a mouth full of Kung pao chicken. “You slept on an air mattress for a full year. Do you still have it?”
“Seriously, Share Bear? You slept on an air mattress?” Dante asked.
“I still have it and I own a nice queen-sized bed now. You know how many articles I had to write before I got the bed?”
“I guess that’s why that news conglomerate is knocking on your door still, begging you to join their team.”
“What news magazine?” he asked.
“An Australian media conglomerate that is looking to open a Midwest-based news magazine that has posts in this one and the Twin Cities with a couple satellite offices in St. Louis and Detroit,” I explained. “The head of the media company, Nicola Campbell, sent me a message requesting a meeting.”
“Are you going to go?”
“Of course I am. I would be a fool not to go. The worst that can happen is I don’t get hired.”
“I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to move out of the beat news and freelance circuit and transition into something more permanent. Let’s not talk about work anymore. I want to get through this move, first.”
“I know that’s right, babe. Amber Lynn just made manager at the hotel, I’m in the lead for the partner position at the firm and you’re going to be top journalist at a newsmagazine start-up.”
I smiled at Dante. “What would make me even happier is setting a date for our wedding.”
Dante kissed me. “I have one in mind already. Let’s announce it at your housewarming party.”
“Deal. I’m beginning to like the sound of being called Mrs. Brooks already.”
“Hello? I’m barfing over here,” Amber Lynn announced.
Dante and I looked at my best friend and laughed. “You know we love you, Amber,” Dante said as he hugged her.
“Yes and we have to get up early to move.”
“That’s right. Share Bear, what time should we come over?”
“Seven. Leftover Chinese food will be for breakfast and we can polish off the beers after we get everything moved in.”
They helped me clean up before leaving, taking the boxes with them. I took one last hot shower in the bathroom; grateful for the long path I’ve travelled to establish myself in journalism. I adorned an old tee shirt and extra clothes in my computer bag and unrolled my sleeping bag.
“Good night, old shit hole. I won’t miss the nights where the heater dies, the gunshots outside the window and I definitely won’t miss the cockroaches,” I said into the empty room.
I woke up the next morning loading the rest of my belongings into my car. I’ve switched my address over to the condo a few days ago and the cable will arrive sometime next week. Mrs. Grabowski, my landlord, came out as I put the remainder of my garbage in the can.
“Sharon, I’m going to miss you,” she cried in a heavy Polish accent.
“I’m going to miss you and your dinners,” I replied, fighting back tears.
“Be good and stay away from boys. They bring trouble.”
“Give me a hug.”
I hugged Mrs. Grabowski and gave her my apartment key. She handed me a Styrofoam plate of food she cooked last night. The hot plate made my stomach growl.
I made it to the condo on Lake Shore Drive and Belmont. The sausages and stuffed cabbages were eaten while I drove top speed down the inner portion of the drive. I pull up to the condo and saw Dante’s truck parked, with the hazard lights on.
I go inside the building and asked the security guard on duty for a cart. While the security went to look for one, Dante came out of the elevator, laughing and smiling.
“What took you so long?” Dante asked, and kissed me full on the lips.
“My landlord,” I answered.
“That woman can talk forever.”
“Here’s your cart, madam,” the security guard said to me.
“Thank you. Can you help me unload my car, please?”
We unpacked my car so I can go park it in lot and found a spot next to Amber Lynn’s beat up old pick-up truck. I take the elevator to the fourteenth floor and to the condo. I step in and find Amber Lynn with a mountain of suitcases unpacking.
“Girl, go put your shit in your room.”
She looked up and squealed in excitement, causing me to lose my hearing for a few seconds. Tripping over her stuff, she ran over and gave me a hug. “Oh my God, Sharon! The view of the lake and skyline is amazing!” she shrieked.
I went out onto the balcony and looked south. I can get used to the city view, especially in the spring and summer. I came back inside to unpack while Amber Lynn tripped over her suitcase.
“Shit!” she grumbled.
“Just unload in your room,” I suggested. “The last thing I want is to drive you to Daley Memorial for a broken ankle.”
“What would I do without you?”
“You would be still shacking up with Chris.”
“I’m thankful you got me away from him. I swear he was going to use me as a punching bag.”
“I’m glad the rat bastard is out of your life. You’re free to be single Amber Lynn.”
“You’re marrying Dante. Do you know what date he has in mind?”
“Don’t worry about it. Your mind needs to be on the job opportunity that came along.”
“You’re right. Let’s clean up this place. I still have last night’s leftover Chinese in the cooler. Put some music on to make the time go faster.”
A few days later, I took the bus to Michigan Avenue toward the offices of the company I may join. While riding the elevator to the eighteenth floor, I checked myself out in the mirror. I decided on an electric blue blazer and matching pencil skirt with a satin white blouse. My heels were the same shade of blue and I brought my portfolio along for the interview with Nicola Campbell, an Australian journalist who began the start-up in Brisbane. From the contents of her email, she wrote that she wants to really build an audience in Chicago, like she did in the Twin Cities, Detroit and St. Louis. I checked my makeup one last time before I walked into the glass doors of the media company.
“May I help you?” the receptionist, dressed in black, asked me.
“I have an appointment with Ms. Campbell,” I replied.
“Sure. What’s your name?”
“Sharon Cooper. What’s your name?”
“Gina. Would you like anything to drink?”
“A bottled water, please.”
Gina reached into a mini-fridge and pulled out a chilled bottle of water and handed it to me. As I opened the bottle, a statuesque blonde came out wearing a lavender pantsuit asked, “Are you Sharon?”
“Yes I am,” I gulped, nearly choking on the water.
“I’m Nicola Campbell, the owner and founder of Australian and Midwest News Media. Let’s go to my office.”
I followed Nicola into her office, a spacious room with a panoramic view of Navy Pier. On one wall were pictures of the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House. The opposite wall housed plaques she received from numerous ceremonies. I sat across from Nicola as she viewed my resume and looked at my online portfolio.
“Miss Cooper,” she spoke, her accent apparent. “You have an impressive portfolio and website. I’ve never seen a journalist who can also put a QR code on a resume that connects to their page. Frankly, I’m speechless.”
“What I need for this office to work as a team of journalists with the caliber of skills you have to really make this start-up explode like it did on the West Coast. I would like you to come on board and work for me. The incentives and perks include opportunities to travel, syndication of articles with the possibility for other doors to open up.
“I can tell from the articles you write, you’re ready for a new challenge. That effect that you have a following on social media says a lot. Are you ready to come on board the world of international journalism?”
I left Nicola’s office on air and thought about my career. Sure, the Chicago Sentinel is going to miss me as a beat reporter, but I’m hungry for more. I got on the bus and went to the newspaper to finish a story I’m writing, and to give my two weeks’ notice.
“Sharon, may I see you in my office?” Eddie, my boss, asked.
I felt as though I was going to my execution. I walked into the room, littered with file cabinets and miscellaneous boxes. “What’s the damage?” I asked.
“You’re one of my best writers and I hate to let you go. Do you have any more stories left?”
“I have four.”
“Your last day is at the end of the month.”
“Thank you. I got a job offer at a new newsmagazine. I begin in a couple months.”
“Congratulations, Sharon. You’ll make them proud. Call me for anything.”
I went home tired. The condo was empty, so I kicked off my heels, undressed and stretched myself out on the red microfiber sofa. I had a job interview, got fired and got hired in the span of a few hours. I don’t like that the Sentinel was bought out by my old company in an effort to be a real newspaper, but I see it as an opportunity to take my talent to the next level with Nicola.
A few weeks later, Amber Lynn and I went shopping at a nearby grocery store. We decided to open the condo to our friends and family. Dante is bringing the tables and wants to announce the date of our wedding. I’m excited, because I get to build a temporary website with the news and get moving on making the invitations and party favors. When the weekend rolled around, I was in the kitchen cooking enough food to feed a football team. Amber Lynn picked up the flowers from the shop around the corner and the pastries from Margo’s Bakery. I set up the movie selection to play during the party. Amber Lynn bought a little kid pail and drew a dollar sign on it with a tube of lipstick.
“What the hell is that for?” I asked.
“Our money bucket,” she replied. “Instead of people bringing us gifts, they can drop money in the bucket.”
“That makes a lot of sense. I’ll update that on the event page you made on Facebook.”
Amber Lynn opened the door for Dante and helped him set up the tables as I went back in the kitchen to bring out the food. They spoke in hushed tones and stopped when I brought out the baked ziti.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing, babe,” Dante answered, and kissed me hard, the way I like it.
“Dante has a surprise for you,” amber Lynn piped up.
“Quiet, woman. She’s not receiving it until later tonight.”
“All right, you two. Get the tray warmers and help me finish setting everything up. The guests will be arriving soon.”
The housewarming party was a huge success. Evan came by with his flavor of the month and all of our closest people in our circle enjoyed the music and the food, especially Amber Lynn’s cheesy potato bake. Dante stayed behind to assist Amber Lynn and me in cleaning up. While she loaded the dishwasher, Dante and I snuck off into the bathroom, where he unzipped his faded blue jeans and pulled out his dick. All ten inches was standing, leaking pre come. Smiling, I dropped my short skirt and straddled him. I bounced up and down on his dick while attempting to not let Amber Lynn hear me moan. Dante stood up with me still on his dick and walked me over to the sink. I got off him and turned around, presenting my ass to the one thing that gets us both going; him taking me from behind.
Dante pounded me hard as I reached down and played with my clit. “Oh, shit, baby. That’s it right there!” I moaned.
“Take this dick, slut! You like it when I call you that?” Dante growled in my ear.
“Yes, Daddy. Fuck your little whore girl hard! Make me come!”
Dante tore open my blouse and squeezed my breasts hard, pulling at my pierced nipples like a mad man. I came hard, gushing on the floor with Dante unloading his hot come inside my pussy. The two of us looked at each other in the mirror and laughed.
We left the bathroom and Amber Lynn was standing on the other side, with her mouth to the floor. “I wasn’t invited to that party?”
“Nope,” I answered. “The quickie was for lovers only.”
“Gross, Sharon. The dishwasher is going and I’m heading to bed. Did you two at least clean up all of the spunk on the bathroom floor?”
“I licked it up,” Dante said.
Monday morning rolled around and I head to the office one last time. Nathan greeted me with a latte, apple turnover and a couple boxes. I hugged him and began to cry.
“I hate this part, Nathan,” I told him.
“I know, grasshopper. You’ll bounce back in a big way.”
“What are you going to do?”
“My wife just had another baby boy. That’s why we missed your party. I’m going to spend more time with them and start my own proofreading and editing business.”
I smiled at the guy I met when I waked into the office of the Star. His brown hair and matching eyes greeted me and showed me where everything was and put me at the desk next to Evan, the ginger-haired entertainment reporter. He took us both under his wing and taught us how to do quick edits before sending off articles to the desk editor. The day we moved to the Sentinel, he still had us as protégés and correcting us when we have typos in our articles.
I waited for the elevator to come when I saw Evan coming toward me with his boxes. We boarded it and rode in deafening silence. He cleared his throat.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s about your housewarming party and what I saw,” he began.
“Spill it,” I demanded.
“I saw your boyfriend and some bleached blonde making out on the balcony.”
I felt the rage rising up in my. I knew it was Dante and amber Lynn immediately. I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Thank you for letting me know, Evan.”
“You’re welcome. You can always call me for whatever reason.”
“Of course, Evan.”
I packed the boxes in my car and drove off from the Orleans Avenue offices of the Sentinel. I have a lovely three-week vacation to complete before I start my new job on Michigan Avenue, and I can return to exercising regularly and catch up on all of my reality television shows.
I pulled up to my building on Lake Shore Drive and noticed Dante’s black BMW was in the visitor’s parking lot. Amber Lynn was off today and took her car in for repairs. What she needs is a new whip and to junk that piece of shit truck. I parked my car and got a dolly to transport the boxes to my house. I do not want to accuse Dante and amber Lynn of sneaking around behind my back, but I cannot escape what Evan told me. The more evens’ word rang through my mind, the more I recognized how many times they were late in getting me.
I pushed all paranoid thoughts out of my mind when I reached my floor and headed to the condo. The more I walked, the farther away the door seemed to be. My heart was pounding heavily in anticipation of what I was going to find. I inhaled deeply as I got to the door and unlocked it to wheel the boxes in. I didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary, so I went into my bedroom and placed the boxes there when I heard something coming out of Amber Lynn’s room.
I tiptoed across the hall and saw her door was slightly ajar. I took a peek and I saw my best friend ride my boyfriend like a mechanical bull. I opened up the door a little to watch as Amber Lynn gyrated on Dante like a stripper on a pole. Dante was sucking on her implants as though it was his last meal.
“How’s my cock riding?” Amber Lynn asked him. “Am I better than Sharon?”
“Yes, Lord,” Dante answered.
“Does she know about us?”
“She has no idea. She’s been so busy at work and moving, she barely noticed I smelled like your sweet pussy the day you two moved in.”
“She knows now how this Georgia peach tastes.”
I continued to watch as Amber Lynn fucked him until his come leaked out of her pussy. As she climbed off, Dante pulled her down and kissed her full on the lips.
“Oh, hell no!” I whispered through clenched teeth. “Fucking assholes! Why would they do this to me?”
My first thought was to snatch Amber Lynn by her DD implants and knock her out, and scratching the hell out of Dante’s model face. I decided against it, being above what I was taught in Austin and Englewood. I went for a move my mom pulled on my brother many years ago to get their attention.
“WHAT IN THE ENTIRE FUCK IS GOING ON?”